Looking into Chapman's Homer"
Keats could not read Homer in the original Greek, so he read him in
Chapman's translation from the time of Shakespeare and Elizabeth.
Here's an example:
|Achilles’ bane full wrath
resound, O Goddesse, that
Infinite sorrowes on the Greekes, and many brave soules losd
From breasts Heroique—sent them farre, to that invisible cave
That no light comforts; and their lims to dogs and vultures gave.
To all which Jove’s will gave effect; from whom first strife begunne
Betwixt Atrides, king of men, and Thetis’ godlike Sonne.
What God gave Eris their command, and op’t that fighting veine?
The opening of
Chapman's translation of the Iliad.
Keats wrote a sonnet in praise of the translation. He thought the
experience was like discovering a new planet or a new ocean.
"Sleep and Poetry" [O for Ten Years]
ten years, that I may overwhelm
in poesy; so I may do the deed
own soul has to itself decreed.
Keats is wishing for ten years to spend reading. Today he would
be working on a PhD in English.
He wants to experience life through reading.
is a very different attitude than we saw in "The Tables Turned,"
where the speaker was saying to stop reading and get outside and
experience life directly.
"On Seeing the Elgin Marbles"
If the Augustan era of the Enlightenment looked back to Rome for its
models, the Romantics tended to look to ancient Greece.
One of the greatest works of architecture in the world was the
the temple that Athens built to Athena Parthenos (Athena the virgin),
goddess the city was named for. Lord Elgin had brought the marble
statues and friezes (a frieze is a carving on
a flat piece of marble that is then put on the wall) from
to England in 1806. In 1816 the British Museum bought them.
Greece wants them back, naturally.
He looks at the carvings of the adventures on the gods that are
on the marble friezes.
The marbles remind him of his on mortality. They are a memento
mori (a reminder that he will die). They are so ancient
compared to his brief time here,
even they are subject to the decay of time.
"Endymion: A Poetic Romance"
Keats is returning to Greek mythology
once again to find
material. This time he is going to write about Endymion, a
shepherd beloved by Selene, the goddess of the moon.
from Book 1:
[A Thing of Beauty]
thing of beauty is a joy for ever:" This is one of the
most famous lines he wrote. He considers ancient myths to be
beautiful as well as instructive.
[The “Pleasure Thermometer”]
This is a novel concept--the pleasure
thermometer, a way of measuring happiness. Happiness
is measured by how we get out of ourselves. First we are united
with objects of beauty, then with other people through friendship, then
ultimately through romantic love.
"When I have fears that I may cease to be"
This is another sonnet. He is
worried that he may die before he has time to write down all the ideas
in his head.
Yet another sonnet.
1 "giant ignorance" He can't read Homer because he doesn't
know Greek. He has to read Homer in translation. He liked
translation of George Chapman (see "On First Looking into
Chapman's Homer, p 1770)
2 Cyclades - Greek islands
5 Keats is blind because he can't read Greek. Homer is
believed to have been blind.
"La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad"
The title means "The lovely lady without mercy". The knight is
love-sick for a "fairy's child," a woman without mercy (she won't give
him what he wants.)
This is more medieval than classical. Fairies and elves used to
be full-sized people, more like the ones in Lord of the Rings than the Keebler
elves. They are dangerous figures, and when she takes the knight
home, he has a dream that reveals all the kings, princes, &
warriors who have died in her thrall. So now he's waiting to die
"Ode on a Grecian Urn"
Ancient Greece is renowned for its urns & pottery decorated with
beautiful figures. Keats does not have any particular urn in
he combines elements found in many urns and other ancient art.
An urn could be a vase or a
It was normally used to hold the ashes of a dead person. Since
is meditating on death and life, permanence and transience, the urn is
a fitting object of his meditation.
This poem is an example of ecphrasis.
is a literary description of a work of art - a frieze, an urn, a
a shield. The earliest and most famous of these is Homer's
of the shield of Achilles (We'll be reading this in the final period).
Unravish'd bride = the urn hasn't been broken
but has survived the centuries intact.
Such an urn seems to Keats like something
in a constantly changing world. This urn shows a moment frozen in
These pipes make silent tunes. The lover never catches up to
his beloved, but neither does she ever grow old. Time is frozen
The trees show an eternal spring.
"for ever young." And you thought Rod Stewart wrote that line.
A sacrifice is underway; these unknown people are stuck in the
forever, and cannot return to their village.
Attic = the area of Greece around Athens.
Cold Pastoral - it lacks the warmth of life, but by lacking
The Greek philosophers thought that beauty, truth, and goodness
and united at the highest level.
The ancient Greek lamia is seen kind of ancestor of
the vampire. But she wasn't a vampire. She had an affair
with Zeus. Hera killed her children, and she reacted by killing
Keats is using an ancient story as his source. In it, a young man
is about to marry a beautiful lamia until Apollonius arrives at the
wedding and sees through her disguise. Everything there is an
illusion which disappears when she flees.
Keats is warning us about accepting things at face value. We need
to look at the underlying reality.